It may sound corny, but making a New Year's Resolution saved my fledgling business.
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My brother Adam and I were working on our first real business out of school, and we'd hit a point where the business was our lives -- which really meant that we were exhausted about 90 percent of the time. We had even begun sleeping on the couches at our venue, a pool hall and bar in Vancouver, BC. It was fun and exciting to be building the business, but we couldn't have kept going at that pace without burning out. So after the holiday parties of December and our big New Year's celebration, we sat down and set some resolutions for the new year that ended up making a world of difference in our lives and in our business.
Working your butt off as an entrepreneur is part of the territory, and work-life balance isn't a luxury most young entrepreneurs can afford. You have to be careful though. You can take it too far and wear yourself out, which isn't doing you or your business any favors. So the resolutions we set that year took into account the hard work that was necessary to build our business, while allowing us to free up some time for recharging when necessary. We set schedules for ourselves, resolved to hire one more employee and promised to hold each other accountable for sticking to our plan. And how did that help our business? It made a difference in ways we never expected.
First, not being worn out all the time allowed us to enjoy what we were doing more. Getting enjoyment and fulfillment out of a business is toward the top of my priority list, as I know that a lot of other pieces fall into place when that's taken care of. But the most unexpected benefit we saw from setting and sticking to our New Year's resolutions that year was that we ran our business better. When you're exhausted, you think you're making good decisions, but your thought processes can be skewed. Just one or two tweaks to the business gave us more clarity, helped us focus better on long term business planning and even improved our relationships with our staff, vendors and customers.
But making resolutions and keeping them are two entirely different matters. Like any goal, if you don't have a solid plan to back it up, one can quickly become just another wish. Here are three worthwhile New Year's resolutions and tips for how you can achieve them:
1. Delegate more: To make this goal realistic, consider what you're spending your time on and eliminate the tasks that are time consuming but not business building. Also consider delegating duties that help build the business but might not be the best use of your time, like customer support. For example, when we started our publishing company, my brother and I were the sales team, and we serviced all existing accounts while acquiring new business. That made sense for the first year. But when it got to the point where servicing accounts began to take up so much time that it got in the way of bringing in new advertisers, we knew it was time to hire an assistant.
2. Improve work-life balance: The key when setting this as a goal for the new year is doing so in a way that's both realistic and productive. Again, young entrepreneurs shouldn't have an expectation of a true 50/50 balance. It's pretty hard to build a successful business that way. But it's also important that you don't kill yourself in the process. So set up resolutions that free up time without losing momentum or productivity. Try hiring a freelancer at strategic times of the year to help alleviate some of the pressure, for instance. Also, evaluate the effectiveness of what you're doing. Is the time you're spending on social media, networking events and conferences actually resulting in new business?
3. Streamline processes: In all of our businesses, we've always been fanatical about evaluating how we do everything and making improvements on the spot whenever possible. In our book, Small Business, Big Vision, we talk about how much we dislike the phrases "Because that's how we've always done it," and "If it's not broke, don't fix it." There's always room for improvement, and you'll never survive if you aren't flexible enough to change with the market and constantly develop as a company. The key to success for this resolution is to make it about developing a company culture around the idea that we're always looking for the best, most efficient, most productive approach -- even if we've been doing it the same way for 20 years.
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